Relay for Life is how one individual can make a difference to help fight, and raise awareness about cancer. Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Washington revolutionized how to help raise money to save lives from cancer. Dr. Gordy Klatt decided the best way to raise money would be to do the one thing he loved marathon running, thus Relay for Life was brought to life. He spent 24 hours on a track (roughly 83 miles.) Friends and family, joined him in support and some joined him for a half an hour at a time and would donate twenty-five dollars to walk with him. This was in 1985 and he raised 27,000 dollars to help fight cancer, by 1986 19 teams had joined him and they raised 33,000 dollars that year.
Today there are over 5,200 Relay for Life events yearly in the U.S., raising over close to $5 billion to date. In addition, the American Cancer Society licenses over 20 events around the globe yearly as well. It brings in annually close to $400 million a year, which is a huge help in getting closer to curing cancer. Today, individuals are realizing that cancer is a major problem, with films such as Step Mother and The Fault In Our Stars, more individuals are likely to see the effects of cancer, thanks to Dr. Gordy Klatt for his innovative idea to start Relay for Life. Without such an initiative the media and others may not be bringing this subject to light today.
There are several events done at Relay for Life, the most significant bring the main event, but then there are several small events as well. The survivors lap is where the survivors are invited for a victory lap to celebrate surviving another year. Next, is the Luminaria Ceremony for a moment of silence to remember those who were lost over the year. Last, but certainly not least, is the Fight Back Ceremony where everyone recommits to fight against cancer. Relay for Life has becomes a way of life for many people because not only,are they getting the support they need, but if they have cancer themselves it gives them the courage to fight. It brings the community together in a way no one else can. Volunteers come from all over to help participate; just like the fighters of cancer, they want to help fight back, and find a cure as soon as possible.
In 2012 Dr. Gordy Klatt was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which made his time with Relay for Life of greater even importance. It proved that life was short and he was right in fighting to survive cancer and support others that needed it. Also, in 2012 he received a human right’s award for his help to fight cancer. In 2013 he participated in Atlanta’s Relay for Life. It invigorated him to fight even harder to rid the world of cancer, which he continues to do today. This year will mark the 29th year people all over the U.S. have been fighting against cancer. Each day more and more cures are being discovered. Thanks to Dr. Klatt he has inspired a world to fight back against cancer.
Opinion by Heather Tillman